With nearly two decades of experience in the financial services industry, Mukul Anand has played a pivotal role in shaping HR strategies that foster inclusion and diversity. Head of Human Resources at HSBC Singapore, Mukul shares his perspectives in this exclusive conversation with the Collective for Equality, on various aspects of gender equality and initiatives undertaken at HSBC Singapore to drive positive change.

Mukul’s journey in HR spans 19 years, during which he has held diverse roles across multiple geographies including India, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Under his leadership, HSBC Singapore has implemented progressive policies aimed at supporting employee wellbeing and fostering inclusivity.

Reflecting on his role, Mukul shares, “My key focus is to strengthen the Employee Value Proposition for HSBC in Singapore, both for our employees and externally. We’ve established hybrid working patterns and enhanced benefits to support the wellbeing and inclusion of our employees.”

Notable initiatives under Mukul’s leadership include substantial increases in parental and adoption leave, caregiving leave, and comprehensive medical and insurance benefits, all designed to provide employees with greater security and peace of mind.

Mukul Anand’s insights emphasize the importance of collaborative action, inclusive leadership, and targeted initiatives in fostering gender equality in workplaces. By embracing diversity and championing inclusivity, organizations can create environments where all individuals thrive and contribute their fullest potential.

Collective Efforts for Gender Equality

Achieving gender equality necessitates collaborative efforts from all stakeholders. Root causes such as unconscious biases must be addressed through awareness-raising initiatives and concrete HR policies that advocate for gender equality. Mukul emphasizes the importance of targeted affirmative action, recognizing that imbalances vary across industries and functions.

“Improving gender equality requires concerted effort from all stakeholders and will not happen overnight,” says Mukul. “We need to tackle unconscious biases through training and workshops and establish concrete policies that push for gender equality.”

Boosting Morale and Confidence

Mukul believes that showcasing female leaders is one of the most effective ways to boost morale and confidence among women in the workplace. At HSBC Singapore, a significant number of key leadership roles are held by women, underscoring the organization’s commitment to nurturing diverse talent pipelines.

“Seeing women in key leadership roles helps break perceptions and gives female colleagues the confidence to pursue their career aspirations,” Mukul notes. “This is a result of robust succession planning and ensuring we have a strong pipeline of talent to take on key roles.”

Role of Men in Gender Equality

Men play a crucial role as allies in advancing gender equality. They can leverage their privilege and influence to advocate for women’s rights, challenge sexist attitudes, and promote inclusive leadership practices that value the contributions of women employees.

“True gender equality cannot be achieved without the complete support of men,” Mukul stresses. “Men can amplify women’s voices, challenge sexism, and push for policies that promote gender equality.”

Reflecting on his experiences, Mukul acknowledges instances where deep-rooted beliefs about women in financial services surfaced. He emphasizes the importance of addressing such situations proactively and ensuring that appointments and announcements are based on merit rather than gender to foster an inclusive environment.

“In one instance, an appointment announcement over-emphasized the fact that we were appointing a female for the role,” Mukul recalls. “This may have inadvertently led people to question the appointee’s credibility. Moving forward, we focused on highlighting the individual’s capabilities and reasons for selection.”

Contributing as a Male Leader

As a male leader, Mukul actively contributes to mentoring and sponsoring female colleagues, creating opportunities for their growth and development within the organization. He underscores the importance of fostering a supportive and inclusive work environment where female colleagues feel valued and empowered to succeed.

“I strive to create opportunities for female colleagues’ growth and advocate for their professional advancement within the organization,” Mukul says. “It’s essential for colleagues to see us as ‘male allies’ and know that our support is visible and dependable.”

For companies to commit to gender diversity, this means acknowledging and appreciating the uniqueness of individuals while ensuring that equity and inclusion integrate everyone into the collective whole. This involves challenging gender stereotypes, striving for balanced gender representation in leadership roles, and addressing areas where gender disparities persist.

“Gender equality should not be measured just in terms of ratios or ‘how many’—we must consider ‘in what’ areas is equality achieved,” Mukul explains. “In banking, it’s essential to persist in addressing areas where representation remains low.”

Challenges Ahead

Looking ahead, Mukul identifies the persistence of gender stereotypes and the emergence of narratives around exclusion and reverse bias as significant challenges. Overcoming these obstacles will require sustained efforts to dismantle preconceptions, educate, and tailor approaches to address the unique challenges faced by different industries and organizations.

“The challenge is to navigate these issues sensitively and avoid a generic approach to gender inclusion,” Mukul cautions. “Challenges and opportunities vary greatly across industries, organizations, and departments.”

As Mukul aptly summarizes, “It’s not just about numbers; it’s about creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to succeed.”